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October 15, 2014

PRECIS WRITING

PRECIS WRITING

A precis is a faithful record of the ideas contained in the passage. There should be no misrepresentation, nor distortion and no inaccurate understanding of the passage. It means that all
the turns and twists of the language, the tone and key words must be understood. This needs:

¤ Familiarity with the styles of the English language.
¤ Understanding of irony and satire.
¤ Understanding of similes and metaphors.
¤ Power to comprehend philosophical ideas.
¤ Good vocabulary.
¤ Understanding of punctuation.

Precis, by its very definition, means presenting the ideas given in the passage briefly without missing their essentials. It needs not only the knowledge of different methods of condensing the sentences but also a good practice.

A well-written précis should be a serviceable substitute for the original work. The goal isto preserve the core essence of the work in a manner that is both clear and concise.

At a minimum, the précis should include the topic or main thesis, the purpose of the research, what was studied, what methods were used, what results (or insight) were gained, and a
conclusion.

BASICS OF A PRECIS AT A GLANCE
1. Read carefully, sentence by sentence, the passage to be summarized. Try to grasp the writer's main point. Spotting the topic sentence will help. Look up in the dictionary any words whose meaning is not absolutely clear. As you read, take brief notes to be used in your writing.

2. When you have finally decided what the author's main point is, write it out in your own words. Do not use the wording of the original except for certain key words which you may find
indispensable. If you cannot translate the idea into language of your own, you do not understand them very well. Be especially careful not to rely too much on the topic sentence. Do not add any
opinions or ideas of your own.

3. Revise your writing until you are sure that you have given an accurate summary.

4. Usually you will find your précis is too long, if it is more than one-third the length ofthe original, it is too long, continue your revision until you have reduced the précis to the proper
length.

For the purpose of this class your précis should be no longer than 1 typed double spaced page with 1” margins.

The aim in a precis is to set forth in as few words as possible, and in a continuous narrative form, the important ideas of any spoken, written or printed matter. The usual direction given to a candidate who has to answer to precis question is to reduce the given passage to roughly onethird of its original length, without omitting any of the ideas contained therein or marring the spirit of the passage.

Precis writing is an art by itself. Efficiency in this can be attained only by constant practice. Precis is an abstract, abridgement or epitome of a passage. It must be able to give the salient
points in the original, in their logical order and must be a continuous narration so as to bring out the meaning quickly and easily without the help of the original.

CONDITONS FOR A SATISFACTORY PRECIS
¤ A precis should be brief, clear and coherent. As for brevity, the essential facts must be retained and the rest rejected. Illustrations, digressions, repetitions and jocular remarks have to be scrupulously avoided. It is a process of shifting matter until the salient features are gathered.

¤ Clarity ought not to be sacrificed, in our efforts for brevity. Ambiguity is a danger to precis writing as it will defeat its very purpose. At the same time, the subjects must be complete.

¤ A continuous narration is an essential quality in precis writing. A collection of short, abrupt sentences will never do. Logical sequence of ideas must be the primary aim.

VARIOUS STEPS LEADING TO A GOOD PRECIS
1. Understanding the Passage: Read the passage carefully to comprehend the import of the passage. Close attention, hard thinking and above all concentration of mind are the preliminary
requisites.

2. Choosing a Caption: Get at the right title which will sum up the matter in short. Perhaps, there may be a suggestive sentence in the passage itself.

3. Statistical Issue: Now count the number of words in the passage. This is very easily done by counting the words in five lines striking the average for a line and then multiplying it by the
number of lines in the passage. Divide this number by 3. Supposing it comes to 310, then your answer must range between 100-105 words.

4. Noting down Important Points: Now go rapidly through the passage and note down the important points or the main arguments but do not underline them.

If you do this well, your job is more than half done.

5. Coherence and Continuity: If the ideas in the original passage are jumbled, rearrange them in a coherent and continuous order.

6. Rough Summary: With the aid of the points noted down by you and with minimum reference to the passage, prepare a comprehensive, rough summary using your own words in English. Bear the following principles in mind before you start writing your precis –

a. Avoid your comments on the passage.
b. Avoid using phrases found in the original, unless they are specially significant or irreplaceable.
c. Avoid emphasizing unavailing or unimportant points.

7. Length of the Precis: See if you have any omitted any idea. Here bear in mind that repetitions, allusions, minor illustrations etc., have to be omitted. Now count the number of words in your
answer. There is bound to be some slip. Then try to add or subtract words as is necessary. This is rather difficult. Score out, add, change, recast, in short, beat the thing into proper shape, until you are satisfied. Do not forget the time factor.

8. Revising the Draft: Go through your precis with a critical eye.
See if the style is simple and clear and how it would appeal to one who has not seen the original.

9. Fair Copying: Now, copy out your rough summary neatly and legibly under the Heading you have chosen. At the end, state the number of words it contains.

SAMPLE PRECIS QUESTION WITH THE FORMAT
¤ Make a precis of the following passage to one-third of its original length. Suggest an apttitle.

The first thing that strikes the critical minority, as it looks at the whole cultural picture, is that ours is a nation of new-rich people, well washed, all dressed up, rather pathetically unsure just what it is washed and dressed up for; a nation convinced that a multitude of material goods, standardized, furiously and expensively advertised by appeals to greed and vanity, will in themselves make life worth the living. Because we are new-rich, we overvalue possessions.

Almost any individual who makes a great deal of money very rapidly supposes that mere possession of wealth is evidence of worth. He also is apt to imagine that with his means he can
buy happiness. These mistakes usually seem folly to the old-rich, to one who was born to poverty, whose father and mother were bred with it. Such a one knows that merely because he or his friends have it, it is no sign that they are worth it, but quite commonly the contrary. He has learned through experience that money is not in itself very valuable stuff.

Happiness, which is what all men desire, cannot be purchased; it is an elusive something not for sale. The old-rich know these things well enough, but the new-rich rarely discover them until they have grown accustomed to possessions. So it seems to be with our society. We go in, almost without question and in all classes, for the sordid nonsense of supposing that externalities possessed ennoble the owners, that a full fist invariable indicates a fine spirit. (254 words)

FAULTY ANSWERS TO THE QUESTION

ANSWER 1: FAULTY PRECIS
(Reason: Phrases and sentences merely copied from original)
Ours is a nation of new-rich people convinced that material goods will in themselves, make life worth the living. Any individual who makes a great deal of money rapidly supposes that wealth is evidence of worth. He imagines that with his means he can buy happiness. These mistakes seem folly to one born to property. He knows that because he or his friends have it, it is no sign that they are worth it. Happiness, which all men desire, cannot be purchased. We go in for the nonsense that a full fist indicates a fine spirit. [96 words]

ANSWER 2: FAULTY PRECIS
(Reason: Précis lacks in point of originality and emphasizes unimportant points.)
On the whole we are a nation of new-rich people who are well washed and well dressed, but we don't know what we're washed and dressed for. Our material goods are all standardized and expensively advertised. Advertisers appeal to our greed and vanity. We think these material goods are the means to wealth and happiness. The old-rich know that their friends aren't worth
the money they have, but the new-rich don't know this until they have been rich for a while. [81words]

ANSWER 3: FAULTY PRECIS
(Reason: Précis is too long - nearly two-thirds the length of original)
First, the critical minority says that we are a nation of new-rich people all dressed up with no place to go. We think the material gods advertised by appeals to our greed and vanity is what
makes life worth living. Anyone who makes a lot of money thinks his money shows his worth and believes that it will make him happy. The old-rich, however, think that these ideas are foolish.
Born into a rich family with property, these people know that money and property don't make them any better people. They know that the opposite its frequently true. They know that money
in itself isn't worth much and that it won't buy happiness, which is the thing everyone wants.

The new rich however, don't know these things until they have been rich long enough to find them out. Almost everyone, regardless of social class, believes that possessions make their
owners better, and the more you have the more worthy you are. This is nonsense.[163 words]

ANSWER 4: FAULTY PRECIS
(Reason: Writer of the précis has injected his own ideas)

The critical minority says we are a nation of new-rich people who are victims of newspaper, magazine, and television advertising which, by appealing to our greed and vanity, tries to convince us that all we need for happiness is a lot of possessions. We don't need most of the advertised stuff like appliances, big cars, and fur coats, but the rest of the world judges our worth by what we have. In many other countries, people don't have the material goods we have. We can't all be as lucky as the old-rich, who don't have to worry about money because they already have it. [104 words]

ACCEPTABLE ANSWER
(Reason: Idea stated in précis writer's words and is less than one-third of length of original.)

HAPPINESS: OLD AND NEW

Critics of American culture see us as a new-rich people who, because we are new-rich, think that material goods make life worth living. We think that money is an indication of worth and that wealth brings happiness. The old-rich know better. Born to property, they do not believe that just because they have it, they are worth it. They know that happiness cannot be bought. The new-rich, however, make the mistake of believing possessions indicate the worth of their owner. [80 words]

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